Category Archives: Folk

9 of the best – sounds of 1998

A compilation for the weekend. My favourite songs of 1998 in no particular order:

Belle and Sebastian – The Boy With the Arab Strap

Boards Of Canada – Roygbiv

Money Mark – Tomorrow Will Be Like Today

Neutral Milk Hotel – Holland, 1945

Mercury Rev – Holes

Beastie Boys – Intergalactic

Lauryn Hill – Doo-Wop

Refused – New Noise

Silver Jews – People


Honourable mentions also go to: Air for ‘La Femme D’Argent‘; Elliott Smith for ‘Waltz#2‘; Eels for ‘Last Stop: This Town‘; People Under The Stairs for ‘San Francisco Nights‘: The Beta Band for ‘Dry The Rain‘; and Massive Attack for ‘Teardrop‘.


Big Thief – Masterpiece (2016)


And now to a different strand of the mythical folk rock genre. Brooklyn’s Big Thief balances the singer-songwriter’s storytelling with indie rock. Their debut album’s title track ‘Masterpiece’ sums it up. Adrianne Lenker sings: “There’s only so much letting go you can ask someone to do.”

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John Joseph Brill – I’m Not Alright (2017)


Keeping to the contemporary theme this week… there is more than a slight resemblance of Matt Berninger’s baritone and his dystopian outlook in today’s sound. But this is not The National; instead I present Londoner John Joseph Brill’s recent single ‘I’m Not Alright’.

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9 of the best – sounds of noughties

It would seem that 2004 was peak noughties (to these ears…):

The Avalanches – Since I Left You (2000)

 The Strokes – Modern Age (2001)

The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize? (2002)

Broken Social Scene – Stars And Sons (2003)

The Walkmen – The Rat (2004)

Sébastien Tellier – La Ritournelle (2004)

Sigur Rós – Hoppípolla (2005)

 Midlake – Bandits (2006)

Beirut – Nantes (2007)


Honourable mentions also go to: Lambchop for ‘Up With The People’ (2000); Outkast for ‘Ms. Jackson’ (2000); Ian Brown for ‘F. E. A. R.’ (2001); The Shins for ‘New Slang‘ (2002); Kings Of Leon for ‘Red Morning Light‘ (2003); Radiohead for ‘A Wolf At The Door’ (2003); Mew for ‘Comforting Sounds’ (2003); Kasabian for ‘Club Foot’ (2004); Danger Mouse for his remix of ‘Public Service Announcement’ (2004); The Good, the Bad and the Queen for ‘Herculean’ (2006); The Hold Steady for ‘The Chillout Tent‘ (2006); The Strokes for ‘You Only Live Once’ (2006); and Jay Electronica for ‘Exhibit C’ (2009).

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Beirut – Elephant Gun (2007)


Ten years ago, Beirut were in their pomp. Originally a musical project of Santa Fe native Zach Condon, the band’s first performance was in New York in May 2006, to support the release of their debut album, Gulag Orkestar. By January 2007,  they carried their critical acclaim into the release of their first EP Lon Gisland. Its opening track ‘Elephant Gun’ again combined elements of indie rock and world music so successfully. Prodigious stuff; Condon was still only 20. Have a great week.

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Nick Drake – River Man (1969)


‘River Man’ is the second song from Nick Drake’s 1969 album Five Leaves Left. Listen, absorb, cry. “Gonna see the river man/Gonna tell him all I can/About the plan/For lilac time.”

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Badly Drawn Boy – Once Around The Block (1999)


Badly Drawn Boy’s album The Hour of Bewilderbeast seemingly came out of nowhere in 2000. Critics told us that he took his cues from from Harry Nilsson and Beck. Listeners simply found themselves lost in the observational baroque pop of Damon Gough. ‘Once Around The Block’ was released a year earlier as the first single off the album.

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Andrew Bird – Oh No (2009)


‘Oh No’ is the opening track off Andrew Bird’s 2009 album Noble Beast. A classically trained violinist and a pervasive whistler, he successfully combines the two talents into a pop song that The Shins would be proud of. Have a great week.

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Nick Mulvey – Cucurucu (2013)



The singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey is a founding member of the band Portico Quartet. ‘Cucurucu’ was his fourth release after leaving the group in 2011 to go solo. It features on his first studio album First Mind, which, like the work of Portico Quartet, also received a Mercury Music Prize nomination. Mulvey has previously revealed that the song’s title is a meaningless noise a child would make, but to these ears, the salsa-infused sound has more to do with the time he spent studying music in Havana. A salsa infusion as it would be sung by Ian Brown, that is.

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Father John Misty – Pure Comedy (2017)

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For Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) channels Elton John throughout the six minutes of ‘Pure Comedy’, the title track off his upcoming album release, due out in April. Tillman’s songwriting looks as if it’s going to be very topical.

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Midlake – Roscoe (2006)

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As I may have said before, Midlake’s 2006 album The Trials Of Van Occupanther is great. The opening track is ‘Roscoe’ is a sweet-sounding harmony of rootsy sounds. Close your eyes and think about collecting them pelts from the hills. Have a great week.

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Cass McCombs – Opposite House (2016)



I’ve noticed my start to the year is a little solemn. There’s no changing the low key today. Cass McCombs released ‘Opposite House’ as the the first single from last year’s long player Mangy Love. Angel Olsen provides backing vocals on the chorus. “Oh why/Why does it rain inside?” they sing. Have a great weekend.

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Aaron Lee Tasjan – Little Movies (2016)



Singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan is an established artist on the American indie folk circuit. This year, he used this platform to do something far more interesting to these ears. He has run his brand of Americana through a Beatles/Nilsson blender. It is difficult for me to listen ‘Little Movies’ without thinking of George Harrison. It’s real good and features on the LP Silver Tears.

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Fred Neil – A Little Bit Of Rain (1965)

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Fred Neil is not as famous as he should be, partly because he gave up the bright lights to hang out in Florida. In 1965, a year before he wrote the classic ‘Everybody’s Talkin”, the singer-songwriter wrote the 1965 album Bleecker & MacDougal. Track #4 is ‘A Little Bit Of Rain’. “If I should leave you/Try to remember the good times/Warm days filled with sunshine/And just a little bit of rain/And just a little bit of rain.” Pure folk-blues.

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Midlake – The Old & The Young (2013)



Has it really been a decade since Midlake released their sublime second album The Trials of Van Occupanther? To my ears, they have never again reached those high sounds. That said, in 2013, the troubadour in them had a momentary return. From their fourth album Antiphon sprung ‘The Old & The Young’ with its echoes of the psychedelic side of Laurel Canyon.

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